On February 13 environmental advocates urged Louisiana agencies to deny permits for the Bayou Bridge pipeline at a press conference in front of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) office in Baton Rouge.
Five days earlier, a Phillips 66 natural gas pipeline in Paradis, Louisiana, exploded, presumably killing one worker and injuring two. The explosion occurred one night after the Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a public permit hearing for the Bayou Bridge oil pipeline at a community center in Napoleonville, Louisiana.
A federal pipeline safety official admitted on camera recently that he made a point of ensuring his home wasn’t in the path of any pipelines before buying it, and that he wouldn't advise anyone to build in the path of a pipeline.
At a Public Safety Trust conference on Nov. 21, Lowry was asked, “Knowing what you know about the problems in the Keystone XL's construction, what would you do if your house was in its path?”
His answer: “Here is what I did when I bought my house — I looked on all the maps, I looked for all the well holes. I found there is nothing around me but dry holes and no pipelines. And it's not because I'm afraid of pipelines, it's not because I think something will happen. It's because something could happen. … You're always better off, if you have a choice….”
He trailed off before finishing his sentence, but added that, “If I was building a house, I wouldn't build it on a refinery, … I wouldn't build it on a pipeline, because they're all industrial facilities. That's just the reality.”
Watch video of PHMSA’s Bill Lowry explaining what measures he took to keep his own family safe from pipelines, and the “reality” of pipeline risks:
“Lowry's answer was not terribly reassuring to those along the Keystone XL route, inferring they should have done their due diligence before settling in,” said Ramsey Sprague, spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade. “Lowry expects the public to trust that regulators will keep them safe, although he himself doesn't trust it enough to buy property near a pipeline.”
A pipeline safety review conducted by the Alberta government last summer was done with the oil and gas industry's interests in mind, according to recent documents released to Greenpeace through Freedom of Information legislation. The documents (PDF) show the review, commissioned after a series of back-to-back pipeline incidents across Alberta raised public concern, was coordinated internally between government and industry, and appears to have required industry consent.
Private communications suggest government officials worked behind the scenes to develop a review plan that would please industry.
“It looks like industry got to write the terms for this review,” said Stewart.
The review was commissioned by the Alberta government after a collective of more than 50 prominent environmental, land rights, First Nations and union representatives called upon Premier Alison Redford to initiate an independent review of the province's pipeline safety. The groups, including the Alberta Surface Rights Group, The Council of Canadians, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace Canada also launched an anonymous oil spill tipline, urging individuals to make rupture and spill information public. The Alberta government does not make such information available on a public database.
In an open letter sent to the Premier, representatives from a cross-section of landowners, farmers, environmental organizations, health and labour groups and First Nations asserted that “Albertans deserve assurances that our pipeline infrastructure is safe, and that appropriate regulations and oversight are in place.”
“The recent spate of pipeline spills has been a wake-up call for all Albertans,” Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group said in a press release. “We know that we have a problem with pipeline safety in this province, and we can’t afford to wait another year before starting to look at the solutions or diagnosing the problem.”
One year ago today, at about 6:11 pm, a massive natural gas line explosion ripped apart a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California. The blast was described as “a thunderous roar heard for miles,” and the geyser of fire that spewed forth killed eight people, injured dozens, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged another 70.
“Our investigation revealed that for years, PG&E exploited weaknesses in a lax system of oversight,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “We also identified regulators that placed a blind trust in the companies that they were charged with overseeing to the detriment of public safety.”